Saturday, October 15, 2011

Life gets busy

Sorry it has been over two weeks since my last post, things have just been a touch on the crazy side.  Two weekends ago we went to Shungnak to buy gas because the city of Kobuk was out of gas.  That was a lot of fun and was my first trip to Shungnak.  Then last weekend I taught on Friday until 3:30 and then went to the school office about 3:45 to start listening to the VHF.  at 4:20 I left to go out to the airport to catch a plane.
 I flew first from Kobuk to Kotzebue. When we landed in Kotzebue I was yawning up a storm and I said something to one of the other passengers about being asleep before I arrived in Anchorage.  The pilot overheard me and said, "Oh, you're going on the jet.  That's no fun.  You have to sit on the plane in Nome..."  (Note: around here a plane is a non-specific term.  A plane is either a bush plane, a jet or sometimes it is a cargo plane, but if it is not specified as a jet plane then even the cargo plane (or for that matter medivac plane) is a propeller plane.)  I  then talked to him a little more and mentioned something about coming back in reverse on Monday (I think he asked me when I was coming back).
We flew from Kotzebue to Nome and the plane parks on the tarmac.  The passengers who are going to Nome get off and then an agent comes on board and gets the names of all the passengers still on the plane.  Then very slowly (because they have to go through TSA security one by one after the plane lands and deplanes) the passengers bound for Anchorage get on the plane (The 6 am flight leaves Anchorage and goes to Kotzebue, then to Nome and then back to Anchorage.  at 11 the next flight goes Anchorage -> Nome -> Kotzebue ->Anchorage and the last flight goes Anchorage->Kotzebue-> Nome -> Anchorage) the Anchorage bound passengers board.  As these planes were boarding I got a bit of a surprise.  One of the passengers was a very long time friend of my parents!  Matter of fact I had seen him about 10 days earlier when he had come to Kobuk for work and had brought me some fresh produce and cheese goodness.  He was on his way back home to Fairbanks (Alaska is the smallest big state).
So I got into Anchorage at 10:30 after having started working before 8 and of course I couldn't go straight to bed because I got to see my grandmother and then I had to call a friend and so it was after midnight before I got to bed.
The next day I went to a really awesome workshop, which was the purpose of the trip to Anchorage and the thing that paid for said trip.  I got some cool ideas and lessons plans and gadgets and even used one of them this week.  Saturday evening I went biking with a friend, dinner and then shopping!  You cannot make a trip from a village to Anchorage without shopping!  When I went to church on Sunday several people even made comments about how they were sure I was doing a lot of shopping.  When I was catching the plane in Kobuk the Era agent who met the plane seemed a little worried and asked me if I was moving out. When I told him that my tubs and cooler were empty he seemed a little relieved (that made me feel good).
Sunday was another busy day filled with church and lunch and more shopping and then of course the packing.  I mailed two tubs and took a cooler and a tub on the plane with me.  I was a little nervous.  Alaska Airlines allows 3 checked suitcases up to a 50 pounds each free of charge, but the bush planes allow a lot less.  Bering Air only allows 50 pounds for free and Era allows 80.  I was flying Era, but I had 96 pounds.  When I checked in I was holding breath ready to ask her to look the other way on the 16 extra pounds (something they will sometimes do).  She didn't say a word.  When she said, "Alright, you're all set." I let out a sigh of relief.  It was kind of funny though.  While I was waiting for the plane the pilot walked through the waiting area and recognized me.  He made a comment about I see you're on the return trip.  I didn't even recognize him until AFTER her spoke to me.  He was our pilot back to Kobuk.
The upper Kobuk [river] consists of 3 villages.  Ambler, Shungnak and Kobuk.  Ambler is the furthest away (from Kobuk, it's the closest to Kotzebue) at around 20 miles, then comes Shungnak which is about 8 miles (as the crow flies) from Kobuk.  My flight back landed in Ambler and then Kobuk.  I was surprised though because there was quite a bit of snow on the ground in Ambler, but none in Kobuk (there is now though).
When I got back to Kobuk I was really made to feel welcome.  The Era agent helped me carry my stuff and then a whole bunch of the kids that I ran into welcomed me back very enthusiastically.  It was nice.
But things just got busier after that.  Tuesday the superintendent came.  After school there was a long meeting about the new school (or really the massive school addition project).  Then we met with the principal of Shungnak and Kobuk because he was doing the formal evaluations on Wednesday of the three of us who are non-tenured.  After that I cooked dinner for him and one of my other co-workers.  Then the students had asked me to please do homework club (I usually do it on Mondays and Wednesdays, but Monday I wasn't back in time for homework club and didn't have time/energy/desire to do it later at night) so I agreed to do homework club from 7:30-8:30.  Made for a busy night.
It gets still busier!  Wednesday morning on the morning from my AKT2 (Alaska Transition to Teaching) mentor/evaluator arrived to do informal observations on Wednesday and informal and a formal observation on Thursday.  I had to meet with her Wednesday night.  However, I didn't have to meet with her for all that long on Wednesday night because I had actually had a lot of my meeting with her on the plane on Monday (remember I said it is a small big state - we were on the same flight from Anchorage to Nome to Kotzebue on Monday).
So by today (Friday) as you can imagine I was pretty exhausted.  After school today I just went home and crashed. Unfortunately today was the end of the quarter and so I have to have grades in by Monday. Guess what I'll be doing a lot of over the weekend?
No blog entry would be complete without pictures to show people my world.  So I'm going to upload photos from the trip to Shungnak and photos of the river from a few days ago.  If I have any pictures of Kobuk with the snow I'll upload one of those too, but I don't remember taking any... Enjoy the pictures!
Look carefully, against the mountain you can see the plane landing in Kobuk.  This picture was taken from the boat on our way to Shungnak.

Again looking carefully at this picture will reveal many things.  Not only the price of gas, but also the Inupiaq words for gas and diesel are included on here.

Shungnak Clinic

We got a ride back down to the river with the gas (33 gallons is a bit heavy).  The new village in Shungnak is built up on the top of a steep hill.  That makes everything a touch far from the river.

The village you see right on the river is the old village of Shungnak.  There are people who still live there, but there is no running water or electricity.  Up on top of the hill you can see part of the current/modern village of Shungnak.

I found this picture, but I think this was one or two snows ago.  I don't think it makes much difference it has been pretty warm today (upper 30's) and so even though we got more snow than is in this picture, the snow has been melting all day)

The school.  Again after a previous snowfall.

The pretty dead tundra on my way to Kotzebue last weekend.  I saw some caribou herds, but by the time I decided I should take a picture and then got out my camera, I didn't see anymore.

The river two days ago (looking up river).  It is getting more and more ice build up.  Plus this was the start of the current snowfall.

Two days ago: the view looking down river.

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